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 Post subject: Odette--Swan Lake
PostPosted: Wed Feb 27, 2008 6:55 am 
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Location: USA-Switzerland
Odette--Swan Lake


With the Mariinsky Festival Swan Lake performances to be staged in about two weeks I have been thinking a great deal about this. I have been watching Swan Lake videos almost every night. Over the last four years I have probably watched the lakeside pas de deux (duet, Act I, scene ll, sometimes called Act II) twenty times or more than I have watched any other part of Swan Lake. I will often watch this duet four or five times in a row without looking at anything else.

Why do I like ballet anyway? One obvious reason has much to do with female beauty, perhaps you could say idealized female beauty, probably one of the most important things in the world for me being a man.

Odette can become an ideal for me of beauty and purity.

The Odette that I have been watching the most lately on video is Yulia Makhalina. She is a second by second ever-changing phenomena when I view her. For me there is so much going on that I am never sure the next time that I see her that I will feel the same. I may focus on a new detail or I may 'ride the wave' at a different instant and everything slightly changes.

So what do I focus on? First, I have to admit, is her porcelain doll, beautiful face. No matter what I might be feeling about her performance, the minute she looks out to the audience I go silent inside.

Her figure is extremely beautiful as well, especially as with most ballerinas, her legs.

Then there is the ideal or the spiritual or whatever you may call it----and the humanity. Physically she can capture moments of statuesque transcendence as well as anyone that I have seen. As far as character is concerned she can be a goddess, a loving shelter or an innocent child.

For me she can also display a freedom of style, a movie star's desire for effect and a pure sensual awareness.

It is the Constantly Changing Mix of all these elements that captivates me. What will she do next? Who will she be next? Blink you eye and you might be riding a different wave than you were riding last time.

Most important for me, as with most ballet performers, is the depth of feeling that I have after having watched her.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27, 2008 5:00 pm 
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This is sort of a fun one, I hope.

I mentioned on the Kirov topic that I am back in the little Swiss mountain town where I sometimes live. I am also churning out more computer posts than I ever imagined. I and maybe you are asking why in one of the most outdoors and naturally beautiful places in the world am I typing away on a computer. I told a woman in the South of France once that I live part of the year in the countryside of Switzerland. She responded that this is so wonderful because this is a place where you have "Room To Dream". So true.

So when I'm not being absolutely overwhelmed by nature's beauty or the wonderful family atmosphere of this most charming of places I am thinking about Swan Lakes.

This one kind of sneaks up on me. It involves Maria Tallchief and André Eglevsky dancing excerpts from "Act II" (lakeside) of Swan Lake. This is from the Maria Tallchief compilation video. It couldn't be more different than the classic Russian or even ABT versions that I am immersed in. I believe that jpc once mentioned to me in Saint Petersburg last year that if you really want to see George Balanchine dancing you should watch Maria Tallchief. 'Sacred' tongue and cheek (humor) also seems to be plenty evident. If George Balanchine didn't choreograph these excerpts his spirit is certainly here.

Where's this all going? Maybe simply to call attention to a wonderful contrast. I doubt if we will be seeing anything quite like this in Saint Petersburg this year. Delicacy does not seem too primary here, but it is still ballet and by definition it has to be delicate somewhere. Gillian Murphy comes from the same 'neighborhood' and Lucia Lacarra (possible guest) I suppose is somewhat of a Balanchine influenced dancer and Diana Vishneva is capable of doing anything, but I still don't think that anything quite like this will be happening at the Festival.

Aside from Maya Plisetskaya this is the most athletic Odette that I have seen. Maya Plisetskaya like Galina Ulanova could also carry a performance into the heavens. I don't think that this is Maria Tallchief's intent although her facial expression is the most believably dreamlike and real that I can recall on my quick viewings of this video. I once remember someone commenting on the internet how incredibly fast Rudolph Nureyev could spin or pirouette. My thought at the time was, "You should see Maria Tallchief !".

She does stop time when she choses to let you know that she is a beautifully focused dancer.

Now this one really gets me! Living nearby in the village is an extreme nature and sports adventurer, who is becoming quite well known. There is nothing in the outdoors that he won't or hasn't done--if it's extreme! He is a very nice family man, but he is macho to the max. I don't think he could conceive of being a ballet dancer! Well who does he look just like? Yep, André Eglevsky. Both men are all muscle and strangely enough they both have similarities in sensitivity and passion, but to ever have included them in the same universe would never have occurred to me. Yet here they both are on the same page and I can't begin the express my amazement.

Normally I don't focus too much on male dancers in ballet, but I have to say that André Eglevsky really touches me in a way. He is so lovingly attentive to every move that Maria Tallchief makes. It is quite heartwarming to see. Also he has amazing bravura. He does some sort of entrechat six or eight (??) (jumping straight up into the air and 'flicking' his feet together) while drifting gracefully off vertical. I have never noticed this done before even by Mikhail Baryshnikov.

So anyway this ballet performance is sort of a side trip, I guess, on the road to Saint Petersburg and Swan Lake. It is most interesting for it's contrast and for it's nature of which I am sure that any real George Balanchine fan could write a book.


[spelling corrections made]

[A quick clarification of at least two things that I wrote above. When I wrote that Gillian Murphy comes from the same 'neighborhood' (as Maria Tallchief) I was trying to make a general statement about their both possibly being influenced by the 'same' American-NYC-Balanchine general environment. When I referred to Maria Tallchief's facial expression in the Swan Lake performance as being "the most believably dreamlike and real that I can recall on my quick viewings of this video", I was referring to the entire video with all her different performances.]


Last edited by Buddy on Sun Mar 02, 2008 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:29 pm 
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As with many video performances that I am not familiar with I am usually discovering new things with continued viewing. I would like to return to the Maria Tallchief-Andre Eglevsky "Swan Lake" performance for a moment because it is so different from what I expect to see in Saint Petersburg and does offer a very interesting contrast and a very appealing alternative.

One thing that I am feeling more with continued viewing is a Delicacy within the 'athleticism' of Maria Tallchief, which I somewhat minimized in my earlier comments.

There is a lot going on here that I believe will make continued viewing a rewarding experience.

For one thing I am not that familiar with the George Balanchine style or the way Maria Tallchief, for one, interprets it. To say that George Balanchine may have choreographed this performance is probably overstating it. I would say that there is at least an altering of emphasis of the original choreography to the Balanchine style--faster and perhaps added steps, more 'athletic' movement of all body parts, and that not always apparent ability of George Balanchine to make overt dynamism something 'ethereal'.

i guess what I am trying to say is that this performance should not be left to some simple summary comments. I am feeling for one thing that there may be a lot more subtlety here than I first realized and a lot more sensitivity.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:42 am 
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With the approach of the Mariinsky Festival and it's Swan Lake performances I continue to look through my rather limited Swan Lake video collection focusing as usual on the Act I (lakeside) pas de deux (duet)). There is such a wealth of beauty here. It is not only the fact that the Mariinsky Festival has decided to showcase Swan Lake this year as interpreted by it's own stars as well as by guest stars that makes it so interesting. It is also the fact that they have chosen what is possibly one of the most beautiful masterpieces in all the arts, which is why I am thinking so much about it now. Random thoughts keep emerging that I hope are worth sharing.

Again comparing some of the different ballerinas that I am watching I would say that Yulia Makhalina is very interesting for the personality of her dancing and her human realness. After having watched more of her Act I (lakeside) Swan Lake duet on video I feel that it is when her outstanding physical beauty is used to create images of soulful purity that she is really the most wonderful.

Svetlana Zakharova I like very much here for her refinement and perfection. Marina Rzhannikova (a newly discovered video favorite) is so beautiful for her airy elegance. If anyone gets a chance to see her video ("Tchaikovsky Swan Lake", Moscow Classical Ballet) or an internet clip, I would love to hear what you think of her. Maria Tallchief is so interesting to me in that cocooned within an 'athletic' exterior is such a wonderful display and sense of delicacy.

These are the dancers that I am able to watch at the moment along with Gillian Murphy, who I have mentioned at the Mariinsky Festival topic. These are the ones that keep the upcoming Mariinsky Festival alive in my mind and keep me thinking about this masterpiece of art and human beauty--Swan Lake. There are so many, many dancers. Perhaps someone would like to mention a few more or express some related ideas.

There are so many interpretations of and approaches to this performance and so much to think about and appreciate.


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